Mōrena, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
This is a blog post I have had a few goes at. The benefit of blogging is that you can repeat and refine. And something as important as Waitangi Day needs ongoing reassessment.
In 1973 in a stroke of brillance Crosby Textor could never dream of Labour Prime Minister Norm Kirk on Waitangi day grabbed the hand of a young male Maori, and walked onto Waitangi Marae. The juxtaposition was exquisite, old and young, powerful and powerless, Pakeha and Maori. The feeling of partnership was overwhelming. The image cemented Big Norm’s status as one of the saints of the Labour Party.
This year at Waitangi things have been remarkably peaceful. And it is noticeable that John Key’s focus has changed. Instead of reaching out to the “under class” he is now blowing hard on the dog whistle and preying for some dissent so that he can “reach out” to the red necks amongst us. And the cynics amongst us may think that he has resorted to fibbing in the hope that he can shore up sufficient support amongst his core vote to hold onto power.
Much has been written about the Treaty of Waitangi and the treachery of the Crown but I will try again to very briefly set out my understanding of what happened to show why I believe Maori have a right to feel aggrieved at their treatment. To any wing nut out there feel free to point out what you believe are my misunderstandings so that we can have a proper debate about the issue.
The treaty was part enlightenment and part reflection of the reality of the time. In 1840 Pakeha was heavily outnumbered by Maori in Aotearoa. Statistics New Zealand estimate that at the time there were no more than 2,050 Pakeha compared to 80,000 Maori in New Zealand. The Pakeha that were present were mainly traders and had no long term commitment to the place. But there were those interested in setting up colonies such as the Wakefield brothers who through the New Zealand Company had started to transport immigrants and promise landholdings in areas where they did not own land. And the French were coming.
The English wanted to control the colonisation of New Zealand and keep it to themselves. A treaty, any treaty with Iwi was vital. Captain William Hobson was sent to New Zealand with instructions to annex part of the land and place it under English rule. He was specifically instructed to sign a treaty with local Maori.
The treaty itself was drafted by the Missionary Henry Williams on February 4, 1840. The document was in Maori and English. The basic problem that has continued to cause so much controversy was the use of words with different meanings in each draft.
For instance in Article 1 the English version ceded sovereignty of New Zealand to the Crown. But in the Maori version the word “kawanatanga” was used. This has been translated to mean “governance” which is clearly not the same as “sovereignty”. And in Article 2 the English version guaranteed “undisturbed possession” of all their “properties”, but the Maori version guaranteed “tino rangatiratanga” (full authority) over “taonga” (treasures, which may be intangible).
The core problem is that the Maori version was signed by the parties. The fact that there was an English translation, clearly an incorrect one, should not affect the interpretation. The Maori version has to be given preference.
So Maori retained Tino Rangatiratanga of New Zealand and preserved full authority over its Taonga. Subsequent acts of confiscation were clearly in breach of this.
In a civilized society this should be acknowledged and the Treaty should be given full force. The Treaty settlements have been for extremely modest amounts given the size of the loss Maori have suffered. On Waitangi day this should be reflected on and respected.